Major Spencer
Upper abdominal pain is the most common symptom of both acute and chronic pancreatitis. Dr. Jerman, what else can you tell us about symptoms of pancreatitis?

Dr. Jerman
Well, Major Spencer, acute pancreatitis often begins with gradual or sudden pain in the upper abdomen that sometimes extends through the back. The pain may be mild at first, but in most cases, the pain is severe and may become constant and last for several days.

Other symptoms can include:

  • A swollen and tender abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever, and
  • Rapid heart rate

A person with acute pancreatitis needs immediate medical attention. Severe acute pancreatitis can cause dehydration, low blood pressure, or failure of the heart, lungs, or kidney. If there is bleeding in the pancreas, it can lead to shock or even death.

Chronic pancreatitis most often causes upper abdominal pain, but some people experience no pain at all. The pain may spread to the back, feel worse when eating or drinking, and become constant and disabling. In some cases, abdominal pain goes away as the condition gets worse because the pancreas is no longer making digestive enzymes.

Other symptoms of chronic pancreatitis can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea, and
  • Oily or greasy stools

People with chronic pancreatitis often do not produce enough enzymes to digest food, which means the body can't absorb nutrients normally. This can lead to malnutrition and weight loss, even for people who have normal appetite and eating habits.